Extraordinary stories of war explored in Worthing

Husband and wife historians Peter Snow and Ann MacMillan unearth undiscovered War Stories at Worthing's Connaught Theatre on Friday, March 2 at 7.30pm.

Peter Snow and Ann MacMillan
Peter Snow and Ann MacMillan

They will take to the stage to share tales from their fascinating account of ordinary people swept up by the horror of war.

Their book uncovers the hardships that caught people up in the most extreme ordeals; the stories of the men and women who have pushed the barriers of bravery, suffering and sheer terror beyond the imaginable.

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

Ann admits: “When I told our daughter that we were writing this book together, she said ‘Mum, that is a recipe for divorce!’ But actually Peter and I share a lot of writing skills. We are both journalists. We both love facts and we both love action. We have both written for TV and radio, and we both write in a largely-similar style.”

They put together a short list of 150 stories to tell, which they whittled down to 31 for the book.

“When we divided it up, we chose the ones that we were particularly interested in, and we wrote our own,” Ann says. “I wrote mine and he wrote his, and then I would read his and he would read mine – and we would exchange thoughts, and we were lucky that we didn’t really have a very tough deadline to do this all in.”

For Peter, it is his ninth published book.

“The publishers asked if I was interested in writing another one, and I assumed it would be military history. They asked me about writing about my 20 favourite battles.”

At which point Ann took a hand: “Peter is very good at bringing out the social history. He is terrific at the overall strategy, but he is excellent at the social side too, what the soldiers wore at Waterloo, what they ate, what the medical care was.

“I said to him ‘If you write about your 20 favourite battles, you won’t be doing that at all. It will just be 20 pages of fighting, and I don’t think I would read that book!’ I said ‘If you are going to do it, you have got to write about the characters.”

The next step, as Peter says, was the fascinating one: choosing those characters: “Most of the people we have chosen are fairly ordinary people that found themselves in extraordinary circumstances. We would often ask ourselves how we think we would have reacted in those situations. They are not all military people. Some of them are, but some of them are civilians; some of them are journalists. And there are even one or two villains in there. But they have all done extraordinary things…”

The book reveals 31 stories from history since the 18th century, including that of Edward Seager who was an officer in the Charge of the Light Brigade, Christine Skarbek, a spy and saboteur during the Second World War, Benedict Arnold, a US turncoat in the War of Independence and Madeleine de Lancey who nursed her dying husband after the Battle of Waterloo.

Tickets for War Stories are available from the Worthing Theatres box office on 01903 206206 and online at worthingtheatres.co.uk.